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The Jews of Florence: From the Medici to Mussolini

Daytime Program

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0567
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Great Synagogue of Florence or Tempio Maggiore


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
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From the early 15th century, the story of the Jewish population of Florence has encompassed vast wealth and prestige—and almost continual trial and tribulation. Art historian and Florentine tour guide Laura Greenblatt explores the history of their presence in the city over the course of six centuries.

The city’s Jews flourished in the Renaissance particularly under Medici rule, but there were continuous difficulties to face—including the creation of a Jewish quarter in the heart of the city by Cosimo de Medici in 1751, a ghetto that would separate them from Florentine Christians for nearly three centuries. The fervent anti-Semitic preaching of the Franciscan friar Bernardino da Feltre and Florence’s own Savonarola infringed on thought and the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Christians.

It was not until 1861, when the Unification of Italy brought emancipation to the country’s Jews, and they, together with the general population, became Italian citizens. The acceptance did not endure. Unthinkable betrayal and deportation lay on the horizon with Mussolini and Fascism. Today, 75 years after the end of the war, the Florentine Jewish community continues to exist, but their numbers are depleted.

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